Fishers’ Perceptions on the Seahorse Fishery in Central Philippines: Interactive approaches and an evaluation of results

We conducted a study in coastal communities in the central Philippines designed to involve seahorse fishers in research and conservation initiatives. The study comprised (i) an initial scoping survey to obtain data on the fishers and their fishery, including effort and habitat quality; and (ii) community meetings conducted as focus group discussions in which results from the scoping study were fed back to the communities, questions were repeated, and information on fishers’ knowledge and opinions with respect to the seahorse fishery, the state of their fishing grounds, and the condition of their livelihood was collected.

Discussions on marine resource management were also held. Participatory methods using highly visual aids were designed to facilitate communication and discussion. The scoping survey collected information from 173 seahorse fishers in 19 communities on location and quality of fishing grounds, and fishing effort while the community meetings collected information from 117 fishers in 10 focal communities.

Average effort was reported in the scoping survey and community meetings as 111 and 192 trips (nights) per fisher per year and 334 and 894 trips per fishing ground per year, respectively. Habitat quality of fishing grounds was generally assessed as good in the scoping survey and community meetings but live coral was not commonly perceived as the dominant habitat type.

Responses differed markedly from independent ecological surveys of the same fishing grounds. A comparison of the answers provided by fishers in the scoping study and community meetings indicated that although absolute values differed, relative estimates of fishing effort per fishing ground and effort per fisher corresponded well across the two surveys. Fishers consistently described seahorse abundance, habitat quality and their livelihoods as in decline, and proposed a number of solutions.

Through our participatory approach, seahorse fishers are playing a role in designing applied fisheries research, and in developing management plans for their fishery.

Meeuwig, J., Samoilys, M., Erediano, J., & Koldewey, H. (2005). Fishers’ Perceptions on the Seahorse Fishery in Central Philippines: Interactive approaches and an evaluation of results. In: Haggan,N., Neis, B. and Baird, I.G. (Editors) Fishers’ Knowledge in Fisheries Science and Management, 179-201.